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Teena Henson said she remembers wishing there was a fitness center in her hometown of Gilmer, Texas that was open 24/7 and was made for men and women of all levels of fitness.

“There was an ad in the local paper that Anytime Fitness was opening,” she said. “It was like, ‘Here it is. It’s in your hands. Now, what are you going to do with it?’”

Determined to get herself on the right track, the 50-year-old signed up at the gym while it was still under construction.

In March 2011, Henson, who is 5-feet, 4-inches tall, weighed 332 pounds. She knew that her poor diet and inactivity were not the path to a long, healthy life. She didn’t suffer from any serious health problems, but her parents and three brothers were all diabetic.

“I think the older I got, the more concerned my mom became because she knew she wouldn’t be there to take care of me,” Henson said. “She was my No. 1 supporter on my plan to exercise and lose weight.”

In the past, Henson would put herself on diets to make everyone happy, but they wouldn’t last long.

There was an endless array of rules, from eating nothing but grapefruits to nothing but carbs, until she realized dieting weren’t for her.

“For me, ‘diet’ is a four-letter word for failure,” she said.

What she was looking for was a lifestyle change. With Anytime Fitness’ hours, Henson had no trouble finding time to work out. She went to the gym every day after work for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

She created a mantra:

“I have a desire to work out. I keep a determination to work out. I created a discipline to work out, and I choose to work out.”

What she struggled with most was changing her eating habits.

She started by cutting out soft drinks and dropped 18 pounds in the first month. Then, Henson started making healthier food choices.

She continued to eat at fast food restaurants because it was convenient, switching out fried chicken for grilled and a side of fries for a side salad.

By December 2011, Henson was down 64 pounds and healthier than ever. Unfortunately, her mom’s health was deteriorating. Mama Henson had suffered several seizures and mini-strokes that severely weakened her.

Henson’s healthier lifestyle helped provide the mental and physical strength she would need in the final months caring for her mother.

“We both just started crying,” Henson said. “I don’t have a clue why she said it, but it was a memorable moment.”

Mama Henson passed away in August 2012.

Whenever Henson loses sight of why she’s working out or skipping sweets, she thinks of her mom’s smile and how much she wanted her daughter to be happy.

“I knew she was proud of me for losing the weight,” Henson said. “I know she felt I was going to be OK now that I had lost the weight.”

In the past year, Henson has made even more changes to her diet. She has started to eat products like quinoa, whole wheat bread and fresh vegetables.

“There was a time when you couldn’t have gotten broccoli anywhere near me.” But now she roasts it and includes it in her meals for the week. She cooks in bulk on the weekends, freezing meals in individual containers for during the week so she knows exactly how many calories she’s eating. She aims to eat 1,200 calories a day.

In less than three years, Henson has lost 166 pounds, which is 50 percent of her body weight. On March 8, she celebrated the three-year anniversary of her first step into Anytime Fitness.

Losing the weight has helped her find an inner strength. It allows her to see a glimpse of the strong, accomplished woman her mother always saw.

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